Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul says that Esteban Ocon will not receive preferential treatment despite Daniel Ricciardo having already signed for McLaren.
Such has been the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ricciardo will contest the entirety of the 2020 Formula 1 season with the Renault F1 Team while already spoken for by another team for 2021.
Abiteboul, who made an apparent snipe about “unity and commitment” upon the announcement of the West Australian’s defection, insists he will nevertheless not be frozen out.
Ironically, that is because Ricciardo is going to a team which is also in the final year of its Renault relationship, with the McLaren F1 Team to use Mercedes power from 2021.
In response to the situation that McLaren found itself in, having to integrate new engines into a chassis which it will race across two seasons, a development token system has been introduced.
The Woking team will use both of its tokens on work arising from that engine change, meaning Ricciardo’s ongoing presence at Renault is less of a concern.
“I don’t want to expand too much on that in front of Daniel,” said Abiteboul in a team press conference.
“As Daniel has said, we have a mission; we have some frustration with last year and what we’ve done.
“I really believe that we can do better this year. We certainly have a car that should allow us to do better, so that’s the focus here and now.
“What I can say is Daniel is a great driver and a great personality, so that will be the profile for anyone who comes next.
“But right now, the focus is on what we need to do, there won’t be any preferential treatment between Esteban and Daniel off the back of his decision, because it’s not a policy of the team and it’s not a necessity. Let’s be honest, we’re not fighting for any championship as we stand right now so it would make absolutely no sense.
“Daniel will be fully involved in the development process of the car, because there is this luxury that the cars are more or less frozen between this year and next year. Also, McLaren will have to use all their (development) tokens on pure chassis and engine integration, so no performance development there, and that will give us the opportunity to work extremely normally with Daniel.
“The only thing is, obviously he won’t be exposed to 2022 (developments) but frankly he would not be anyway, because it’s still a bit far away from a driver perspective even though a substantial part of our workforce is already onto 2022.”
Ricciardo, for his part, says there has not been any animosity since it was made public that he will be leaving Renault.
“I think maybe the first time I see some people in the team there might be that moment of perhaps… I don’t know if the word is awkwardness, but I went through it a couple of years ago,” he said, in reference to his exit from Red Bull Racing in 2018.
“But I think because time has passed since the news, I’ve spoken to if not seen already some members of the team and it’s really back to business.
“We’re all excited to get racing again. Hopefully we get a bundle of races and a chance to finish this out strong.
“From my side, that’s certainly put behind me and not in my train of thought at the moment, and it won’t be until next year.
“We’ll just get on with. I’ve spent a couple of days in the sim as well, so seen a few people around the factory and no black eyes or punches in the stomach, so I think we’re all moving on and will give it all for the rest of the year.”
The 2020 F1 season commences this coming Friday in Austria with Free Practice 1 from 19:00 AEST.